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Celebrating Public Domain Day 2021

Today is Public Domain Day; the day that we celebrate new works that have entered the public domain. This year, we welcome works first registered or published in the United States in 1925. Works published during that time, that met all required formalities, enjoyed a maximum term of copyright protection of 95 years. With copyright term running to the end of the calendar year, works first published in 1925 officially enter the public domain in the U.S. on January 1, 2021.

Public domain works are free of copyright. This means they may be freely copied, adapted, distributed, performed and displayed, without permission from a rightsholder.

A Selection of Public Domain Works

Below are just some of the creative works that have entered the public domain in the United States this year:

Literature:

  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  • Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis
  • The Informer by Liam O’Flaherty
  • Manhattan Transfer by John Dos Passos
  • An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
  • In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway
  • Gentleman Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos

Film:

  • The Circle, directed by Frank Borzage
  • Clash of the Wolves, directed by Noel Smith
  • Go West, directed by Buster Keaton
  • Seven Chances, directed by Buster Keaton
  • Grass: A Nation’s Battle for Life, directed by Merian Cooper and Ernest Shoedsack
  • The Freshman, directed by Fred Newmeyer and Sam Taylor and starring Harold Lloyd

Music:

  • “Sweet Georgia Brown” by Ben Bernie, Kenneth Casey & Maceo Pinkard
  • “That Certain Feeling” by Ira and George Gershwin
  • “Sugar Foot Stomp” by Joe Oliver and Louis Armstrong
  • “Always” by Irving Berlin

Celebrating the Public Domain at OSU

The Public Domain Day Project at OSU continues this year to highlight and share public domain musical compositions.

We are offering a variety of 1925 works from the Music & Dance Library collections and creative projects, including: musical settings of fourteen children’s poems by A. A. Milne (featuring the first appearance of Winnie-the-Pooh) for voice and piano; a set of art songs inspired by the city of Paris, by American composer Kathleen Lockhart Manning; a piano solo by American avant-garde composer Henry Cowell; and popular sheet music by two Cleveland-based musicians, including a song inspired by a sensational 1920s serial fiction story in The Cleveland Press.

Visit the Music Scores & Audio page on the Public Domain Day Project site for access to available items, with more to be added throughout 2021.

Interested in learning more about the public domain? Explore the Public Domain Day website to learn more about the Public Domain Project at OSU, access public domain music scores and select audio recordings (dedicated to the public domain via Creative Commons CC0), and to view additional copyright and public domain resources.

Public Domain Christmas Songs (Part II)

A few years ago, we shared a blog post detailing some of the most popular Christmas songs that could be found in the public domain. These songs, many dating back to the 1700s and 1800s, are free to share, reproduce, or perform with no permissions or licensing needed.

Which Christmas songs entered the public domain this year?

Following the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998, songs that were first registered or published in the United States before January 1, 1978 could receive a maximum term of protection of 95 years from the date of publication. This means that Christmas songs first registered or published in the United States in 1924 received a maximum term of protection through 2019 (1924+95 years). With copyright term running to the end of the calendar year, works first published in the U.S. entered the public domain in the U.S. on January 1st of this year.

In order to receive the maximum term of protection, a song first published in 1924 would require inclusion of a valid copyright notice and renewal of the copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. That renewal had to have been made in the 28th year following publication. Failure to include a notice or file timely renewal would mean that the song would at that point enter the public domain. Copyright formalities have changed over time, but the charts found in Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States can help you navigate the requirements.

How do you check to see if a song was renewed? Copyright renewals and registrations were recorded in the Catalog of Copyright Entries (CCE). These records have been scanned and made available by a number of organizations—one great resource is the Online Books Page through the University of Pennsylvania Libraries. More recent copyright records (1978 to present) can be searched online through the Copyright Office’s copyright catalog.

To search renewals for songs first published in the United States in 1924, we searched records spanning from 1951-1952. Below are some just some of the songs that were published in 1924 and renewed in their 28th year. After enjoying a term of copyright protection of 95 years, these works entered the public domain this year:

  • CHRISTMAS FANTASIA; for string orchestra & piano by Benoit Hollander. © 9Dec24, E599510. R87828, 13Dec51, Grace Adeline Hollander (W)
  • CHRISTMAS NIGHT, from Earl Carroll vanities; w & m Earl Carroll. 2d ed. © 10Oct24, E600428. R86228, 13Nov51, Jesse I. Schuyler (E)
  • COWBOY’S CHRISTMAS; for violin & piano by Jaromir Weinberger, rev. Otakar Sevcik. © 18Feb24, E592070. R89247, 19Jan52, Jaromir Weinberger (A)
  • SAVOY CHRISTMAS MEDLEY; for piano, arr. Debroy Somers. © 8Dec24; E599194-599195. R89904-89905; 28Jan52; Debroy Somers (A)
  • CHRISTMAS BELLS; anthem, w & m Cecil Forsyth; mixed voices. © 10Oct24, E602740. R85214, 24Oct51, P. David Forsyth, Walters B. Forsyth & Hugh Forsyth (NK)
  • THE NEW BORN KING; Christmas anthem, W. C. Krensch, M Charles L. Espoir, arr. Hartley Moore; mixed voices. © on arr., 22Sep24, E602736. R86918, 26Nov51, Oliver Ditson Co. (PWH)
  • SANTA CLAUS BLUES; w & m Charley Straight & Gus Kahn. © 1Nov24, E602777. R91975, 19Mar52, Grace LeBoy Kahn (W)

Santa Claus Blues record from Internet Archive

Arrangements and Recordings

As you can see above, it is possible to register and renew a copyright in a new arrangement, revision, or edition of a work. This copyright extends only to the new creative expression included in the arrangement, revision, or new edition. A new arrangement of a public domain song does not alter or extent the public domain status of the underlying work.

This blog post has discussed public domain musical compositions. What about recordings that are made of the songs? Are 1924 recordings also in the public domain? The term of protection for sound recordings is measured differently, meaning it is possible for a composition to be in the public domain while a recording of that composition that is made and released in the same year remains protected by copyright. Our blog post, “When does music enter the public domain in the United States?” provides more information on this topic.

Coming 2021

New works enter the public domain every year on January 1st. Check out the Public Domain Day Project to learn how Copyright Services and University Libraries are celebrating Public Domain Day 2021.

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By Allison DeVito (ODEE Library Services Liaison, Office of Distance Education and eLearning) and Maria Scheid (Copyright Services Specialist at Copyright Services, The Ohio State University Libraries)

Public Domain Day 2019 Recap

Public Domain Day 2019 graphic

2019 began with a celebration; after a 20-year pause, works published in the United States in 1923 entered the public domain. In recognition of this occasion, Ohio State University Libraries began the Public Domain Day project, collaborating with partners across the university to bring attention to works whose term of copyright protection has expired and to encourage creative uses of public domain materials in the University Libraries’ collections.

In January of this year, the Public Domain Day project website was launched to share more information about the project and the partnerships involved. With a focus on public domain music, the project website highlighted a selection of musical scores that we believe entered the public domain in the U.S. in 2019.

Additionally, project partners worked together to provide a number of events throughout the year. Here is a recap of all the events for Public Domain Day 2019:

  • January 25, 2019: Public Domain Day Information Session. Copyright Services offered an information session with an overview of the ways a work may enter the public domain in the United States and how public domain materials may be used and shared to promote innovative research and creative expression. We also shared our plans for celebration at OSU with the Public Domain Day Project.
  • March 1, 2019: Public Domain Chamber Music and Chat. Two compositions, published in 1923, were the focus for this concert event. Composer Paul Hindemith’s Cello Sonata op. 25 no. 3 and String Quartet op. 22 were performed by OSU School of Music Professor Mark Rudoff and the Janus Quartet. The event included opening remarks on the significant public domain developments in 2019 and additional background on the two pieces performed. With the assistance of Professor Beth Black, Undergraduate Engagement Librarian for University Libraries, this event was also offered as a session for the Second-Year Transformational Experience Program (STEP).
  • April 11, 2019: OSU Symphonic Band concert featuring ‘McKinley’s Own’ march by Karl King. The OSU Symphonic Band, conducted by OSU School of Music professor Scott A. Jones, performed a new edition of composer Karl L. King’s march McKinley’s Own. Video of the performance is available online, with audio of the performance available on the Public Domain Day project website. The new edition, edited by Professor Alan Green and arranged by Scott A. Jones and Craig Levesque, was dedicated to the public domain through the CC0 waiver. The score and parts (imposed) are made available on the Public Domain Day project website.
  • November 4, 2019: Using Public Domain Materials in Your Teaching and Research. This workshop, offered by Copyright Services, provided participants with information and resources for identifying, finding, and using public domain text, images, and other creative works.
  • November 6, 2019: Safety Last! Film screening with the Wexner Center for the Arts. Safety Last!, released in 1923, is a silent film starring Harold Lloyd. This screening at the Wexner Center for the Arts featured a 1989 soundtrack composed by Carl Davis, with orchestration based on the line-up of the Paul Whiteman Orchestra of the 1920s and inspired by popular music of that era. The Ohio State University Libraries’ Silent Film Sheet Music Collection offers a number of musical scores that are arranged for the typical film theatre orchestras of the early 20th century. Three 1923 scores from that collection have been digitized and made available on the Public Domain Day project website. Scores from 1923 include:
    • Clark, C. Frederick, Midnight (Novelty Fox Trot)
    • Coots, J. Fred and Dave Ringle (arr. Ted Eastwood), Home Town Blues
    • Savino, Domenico, Misterioso all Valse (Dramatic Suspense)

On January 1, 2020, we will once again celebrate Public Domain Day. In 2020, we will welcome into the public domain works published in the United States in 1924. To keep up to date on new events offered in 2020 and to read more about the project, visit the Public Domain Day project website at go.osu.edu/Public DomainDay .

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By Maria Scheid, Copyright Services Coordinator at Copyright Services, The Ohio State University Libraries

The Wait is Over! Public Domain Day 2019

What do F. Scott Fitzgerald, Agatha Christie, Buster Keaton, and Jelly Roll Morton all have in common? They all have works that are entering the public domain in the U.S. today on Public Domain Day!

Today is Public Domain Day and this year’s celebration is a special one for those of us in the United States. After a 20-year pause, works published in the United States will once again be entering the public domain on a rolling basis. This year, we welcome works first registered or published in the United States in 1923.

As public domain works, these books, films, compositions, and works of art can be used without copyright restrictions. This means, for example, that instructors can make copies of literary works for their students, ensembles can create new arrangements and publicly perform musical works, and students can adapt and remix works freely into their own projects and assignments. Works in the public domain can be used to encourage and support learning, scholarship, and creative endeavors.

Why the 20-year wait?

Copyright protects many different types of creative works, including books, film, music, and art. And while the U.S. Constitution requires copyright be granted only for “limited Times,” the term of copyright protection has increased over the years. In 1998, Congress passed the Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA), which extended the term of protection for published works by an additional 20 years. For works published before 1978, this meant a term of protection of 95 years from publication date. We have now reached the point where eligible works are reaching the 95-year mark.

In addition to these published works, we will see certain unpublished works enter the public domain in the U.S. on this day; specifically, unpublished works from authors who died during 1948 and unpublished works created in 1898 for anonymous and pseudonymous authors and works made for hire, and unpublished works when the date of the author’s death is unknown.[1]

Celebrating the Public Domain at OSU

Copyright Services has collaborated with partners across OSU to share public domain works in the University Libraries collections, focusing on musical compositions published or registered in the U.S. in 1923. Tomorrow, January 2, you can visit the Public Domain Day Project website (go.osu.edu/PublicDomainDay) to learn more about the partners involved in this project, the events planned for 2019, our plans for releasing new recordings of select musical works (to be dedicated to the public domain via Creative Commons CC0), and to access music scores and audio. New works will be added throughout 2019.

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By Maria Scheid, Copyright Services Coordinator at Copyright Services, The Ohio State University Libraries

[1] Depending on the work you are dealing with, there may be some additional considerations in determining the copyright status of a work. Two great resources for thinking through copyright term and public domain are the American Library Association’s Public Domain Slider and Peter Hirtle’s Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States chart.

 

Public Domain Christmas Songs

It’s that time of year when Christmas lights are strung and ugly sweaters are worn. When singing along with your favorite carols have you ever thought of the copyright status behind these famous songs?

Here are nine well known Christmas songs that are in the public domain.

Away in a Manger

Once rumored to have been authored by theologian Martin Luther, this carol made an early appearance in 1882. Originally titled “Luther’s Cradle Song” an anonymous author attributed the song as one Luther wrote for his children. This was dispelled for a number of reasons, and a source states the song may have instead been associated with a celebration for the 400th anniversary of Luther’s birth in 1883. There are two musical settings commonly assigned with the lyrics, one by William J. Kirkpatrick (1895) and the other by James Ramsey Murray (1887). In 1996 it was ranked as the second most popular carol in Britain. The text of the song is based on verses from Luke 2:4-7. Source: Away in a Manger

Deck the Halls

Originally titled Deck the Hall, this is a Welsh melody that dates back to the 16th century. The famous chorus ‘fa la la la la’ may date to the medieval period, while the modern English lyrics were written by Scottish musician Thomas Oliphant in 1862. The melody comes from a traditional Welsh carol “Nos Galan”, a traditional New Year’s Eve ballad. The plural of ‘hall’ was first published in 1892. Source: Deck the Halls Song History

Jingle Bells

Perhaps one of the most well-known Christmas songs, Jingle Bells was originally written for the Thanksgiving season by James Lord Pierpont in 1857. It was copyrighted as One Horse Open Sleigh, but the name was revised when it was published in 1859 as “Jingle Bells, or the One Horse Open Sleigh”. The title comes from the common practice of placing bells on a horse’s harness to avoid collisions because a horse drawn sleigh makes little noise. Jingle Bells was the first song broadcast from outer space when two astronauts on Gemini 6 performed the song aboard the spacecraft in 1965 after reporting a sleigh like object in the polar orbit. Source: 8 Things You May Not Know About “Jingle Bells”

Jingle Bells sheet music

Pierpont, J, and J Pierpont. The One Horse Open Sleigh. Oliver Ditson, Boston, monographic, 1857. Notated Music. https://www.loc.gov/item/sm1857.620520/

Silent Night

Translated from the German “Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht”, the song was composed by Franz Xaver Gruber, a schoolmaster, with lyrics by Father Joseph Mohr, in Oberndorf bei Salzburg, Austria in 1818. Bing Crosby’s version is the third bestselling single of all time, and the song was declared an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2011. Silent Night, as we know it today was translated to English in 1859 by John Freeman Young, an Episcopal priest. Source: Silent Night

Up on the House Top

Written by Benjamin Hanby in 1864, Up on the House Top was considered the first Christmas song to focus primarily on Santa Claus. Sources credit Hanby’s inspiration for the song as Clement C. Moore’s 1822 poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas”, commonly known as “The Night Before Christmas”. The song was originally titled Santa Claus and meant to be performed as a sing along. According to The Christmas Carol Reader it is the second oldest secular Christmas song, only surpassed by Jingle Bells. Source: Up on the Housetop

Toyland

Written for the 1903 operetta Babes in Toyland, the whimsical song features a cast of Mother Goose characters in a magical toy filled land. The lyrics were written by Glenn MacDonough with music by Victor Herbert. The lyrics of the song have no direct ties to Christmas or the holiday season, but the spirit of the song, the happiness toys bring to children, has been associated with Santa Claus. The operetta has been adapted into 4 films of the same title, beginning in 1934 to the most recent animated version in 1997. Source: Babes in Toyland

The Twelve Days of Christmas

One of the most well-known cumulative songs, the carol describes an increasingly grand set of gifts for the twelve days of Christmas, beginning Christmas Day. The song was first published in 1780 without any music, and has a Roud Folk Song Index of 68. The standard tune it is now associated with was derived from a 1909 arrangement by Frederic Austin. In one 19th century variant, the gifts come from “my mother” rather than “my true love”.  PNC Financial annually calculates the total cost of all the gifts presented in the song, and the estimate for 2018 total comes to $39,0094.93. Source: The Twelve Days of Christmas Explained

We Wish You a Merry Christmas

The famous greeting which gives name to the song, “a merry Christmas and a happy New Year” is recorded from 18th century England. The song is a nod to the dynamic between the rich and poor, and describes townspeople parading the steps of the rich calling for figgy pudding and refusing to leave until it was delivered. The modern popularity of the song comes from a Bristol based composer Arthur Warrell, who arranged the song for the University of Bristol Madrigal singers in 1935. The very early history of the carol is unknown; it is notoriously missing from popular song books of the 18th and 19th centuries. Source: We Wish You a Merry Christmas

O Christmas Tree

Also known as O Tannenbaum, O Christmas Tree is a German Christmas song; a tannenbaum is the German word for a fir tree. The modern lyrics were written in 1824, and instead of referring to Christmas, reference the evergreen as a symbol of constancy and faithfulness. The custom of Christmas trees developed throughout the 19th century, and the song became associated with the holiday. The song was famously used in the 1965 television special A Charlie Brown Christmas. Source: O Christmas Tree: Lyrics and Chords

 

Copyrighted Christmas Songs

Unfortunately the songs listed below are still under copyright protection so we’ll have to wait a little while before they enter the public domain.

Winter Wonderland
Written: 1934
Public Domain: 2030

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
Written: 1939
Public Domain: 2035

Frosty the Snowman
Written: 1950
Public Domain: 2046

Jingle Bell Rock
Written: 1957
Public Domain: 2053

Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree
Written: 1958
Public Domain: 2054

Little Saint Nick
Written: 1963
Public Domain: 2059

Holly Jolly Christmas
Written: 1964
Public Domain: 2060

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By Allison DeVito, Copyright Services Specialist at Copyright Services, The Ohio State University Libraries

 

 

 

Public Domain Day 2018

It is the beginning of another year, which means the welcoming of new works into the public domain for Public Domain Day 2018. Today, countries around the world will expand their public domain with creative works whose term of copyright protection ended in 2017. As public domain works, these books, films, compositions, and works of art can be copied, shared, and remixed without copyright restrictions.

We have written before about the extension of the term of copyright protection under U.S. law and its impact on our public domain (we’ve also written about the ability of copyright owners to bypass this lengthy wait and dedicate their works to the public domain via Creative Commons CC0). As a result of this extension of copyright and Congress’s decision to apply the extension of copyright protection retroactively to existing works, those of us in the United States will need to wait until January 1, 2019 before we see new published works enter the public domain.

For now, the U.S. public domain will add a much smaller group of works—unpublished works whose author died in 1947 and were not registered with the U.S. Copyright Office prior to 1978.

For an interesting read on some of the published works that are entering the public domain in countries around the world, head over to The Public Domain Review for their picks for the Class of 2018.

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By Maria Scheid, Copyright Services Specialist at Copyright Services, The Ohio State University Libraries

Public Domain Day 2017

Today on January 1st, we celebrate Public Domain Day—the day each year where works enter the public domain for many countries around the world following the expiration of their term of copyright protection.

Public domain works are works free of copyright restrictions; works capable of being freely reproduced, shared, and built upon by users. As we have discussed on this blog before, a robust public domain supports the underlying purpose of U.S. copyright law to promote the progress of knowledge and learning.[1]

But while many counties will see new works added to the public domain this year, there will be no published works entering the public domain in the United States. In fact, no published works will be added to the public domain in the United States until 2019.

Why the delay? The U.S. Constitution states that copyright protections may exist only for “limited times,” but our copyright law has been amended several times to extend the length of the term of protection. Under our first federal copyright statute, copyright protection lasted for an initial term of 14 years, renewable for another 14 years. The current term of protection for copyrighted works is the lifetime of the author plus an additional 70 years. As a result of this extension of copyright and Congress’s decision to apply the extension of copyright protection retroactively to existing works, works published in the United States from 1923 to 1977 will remain protected for 95 years after their date of publication. This means that works we would normally expect to enter the public domain today (i.e., published works whose author died in 1946) will not enter the public domain until much later.

For more information on Public Domain Day and works entering the public domain in other countries this year, visit:

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By Maria Scheid, Rights Management Specialist at the Copyright Resources Center, The Ohio State University Libraries

 

[1] For this reason, authors today may chose to dedicate their work to the public domain through means such as the Creative Commons Public Domain Dedicator (CC0) tool rather than wait for the term of copyright protection to expire.

How the public domain promotes scholarship: Engaging Columbus uses 1922 OSU thesis to map Columbus neighborhoods

Engaging Columbus, a collaboration between Ohio Wesleyan University, the Ohio Five Libraries, the City of Columbus Department of Technology / Geographic Information Systems, and other partners in central Ohio, has generated an interactive map of historic panoramic images from the City of Columbus using digitized photographs from a 1922 Ohio State University master’s thesis. The thesis, “An introduction to the economic and social geography of Columbus, Ohio” was written by Forest Ira Blanchard, OSU Department of Geography’s first graduate-level alumnus. The use of Mr. Blanchard’s photographs is a great example of the way digitization of works can spur new scholarship. Mr. Blanchard’s thesis photographs, published ninety-three years ago, provide important historical information on urban neighborhoods and development in Columbus, Ohio. As Engaging Columbus notes, “Blanchard’s photographs are remarkable for their depiction of typical streets, railroad corridors, and neighborhoods (rather than the more typical images of important buildings or events).” Engaging Columbus was able to freely use the valuable resource contributed by Mr. Blanchard to inform and shape its own work in geocoding historical photographs. The information they have generated is fully available for the benefit of the public and will in turn be used in a variety of ways.

Engaging Columbus was able to use Mr. Blanchard’s photographs without having to ask permission or pay fees to Mr. Blanchard’s estate. Original photographs such as the ones taken by Mr. Blanchard are subject to copyright protection, so how did Engaging Columbus use the photographs without permission? The answer comes from the law surrounding copyright duration and expiration. Mr. Blanchard’s photos were published prior to 1923; the photographs are in the public domain and therefore no longer protected by copyright.

What is the public domain?

In the United States, copyright law seeks “to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts” by providing copyright owners with a number of exclusive rights over their works, for a limited time. By limiting the time in which a work may fall under copyright protection, the law seeks to find the right balance between incentivizing creators to create works and opening works up for the use and benefit of the public. In addition to establishing duration for copyright protection, the law also provides that certain works never receive copyright protection to begin with. The public domain includes works that fall into both of these categories: those in which the copyright has expired and those which never had copyright protection. Works in the public domain can be used by anyone in any way, without any permission required.

Copyright duration has been extended a number of times over the years, and calculating when exactly a work falls into the public domain due to expiration of its copyright can be tricky. The graphic can provide some general guidance. For more information on the public domain, visit our resources page.

When does a work fall within the public domain?

Four trapeziods, positioned sideways and all of a different color, depicting general guidelines for determining when a work falls into the public domain.Trapeziod 1 reads: Prior to 1923, most things published. Trapezoid 2 reads: 1923 to 1978, anything published without a copyright notice. Trapezoid 3 reads: 1978 to 1 March 1989, various conditions apply. Trapezoid 4 reads: On or after 1 March 1989, 70 yrs. after death of author, corporate or anonymous authorship: 95 yrs. from first publication or 120 yrs. from creation date, whichever first.

 

Digitization as a tool for new scholarship

Scholars around the world are creating tools, digital platforms, websites and documents to help society learn about ourselves. Many like Engaging Columbus are linking the arts, geography, history and sociology, among others, in new and innovative ways. By digitizing works in the public domain, we can provide access to previously unavailable historical, cultural and educational resources, which can have a positive impact on academia. Works such as Mr. Blanchard’s photographs may now reach new audiences and serve as the catalyst for creation and dissemination of new information and perspectives. Building upon and promoting of scholarship is at the heart of the mission of universities and libraries across the country, including The Ohio State University, to advance discovery and learning.

An introduction to the economic and social geography of Columbus, Ohio” is available for viewing in the Architecture Library at the Austin E. Knowlton School of Architecture and will soon be available online through the OhioLINK ETD Center.

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By Maria Scheid, Rights Management Specialist at the Copyright Resources Center, The Ohio State University Libraries

Public Domain Day – 2015

Image is a four panel comic strip titled “Public Domain Day – 2015”. First panel: Two people in an office setting exclaim: “Happy Public Domain Day!!!” and a caption states: “Many countries welcome new works into the public domain each year as copyrights expire on January 1st.” Second panel: One of the people from the first panel says: “This year’s collection of works entering the public domain in some countries** includes notable works like the famous painting “The Scream” by Edvard Munch.” Third panel: Shows a map of the United States with a caption that says: “However, due to the copyright extension included in the 1976 Copyright Act, no new works will enter the public domain in the USA until 2019. Fourth Panel: The other person from the first panel is shown in a posture and setting reminiscent of the painting “The Scream.”

It’s that time again! We celebrate Public Domain Day each year as many countries welcome new works into their public domain when the copyrights  for those works expire on January 1st.

Read our blog post on the public domain and its cultural importance, and visit these sites around the Web for more coverage of Public Domain Day 2015 and the works entering the public domain for various countries around the world:

 

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By Jessica Meindertsma, Rights Management Specialist at the Copyright Resources Center, The Ohio State University Libraries

Ohio artists remix the public domain: Q&A with Celia C. Peters, producer of Public Domain pop-up exhibit

As previously mentioned, a pop-up exhibit of new works by Ohio artists incorporating public domain materials will be on display October 11 at the Homeport Gallery in Columbus:

Event flyer: Public Domain art of the people, by the people. Ohio artists create from the public domain! Presented by Artistic Freedom Ltd.

PUBLIC DOMAIN
Pop-Up Exhibit & Reception
October 11, 2014
6pm-9pm
Homeport Gallery
779 East Long Street
Columbus, OH 43215
​(Adjacent to the Lincoln Theater)

We reached out to the exhibit’s founder and producer, Celia C. Peters, to learn more about the upcoming show and the relationship between artists, art, and the public domain.

Copyright Resources Center: What inspired you to curate an exhibit featuring artwork that incorporates public domain materials?

Celia C. Peters: I thought it would be an interesting creative challenge to present artists with: asking them to choose an element that speaks to them and use that to create something new. I like the idea of artists being inspired by the work of creators who came before them —- not to plagiarize, but to create something completely unique. I call it ‘recycling creativity.’

Also, before coming here, I lived on the East Coast for some years before (I’m still pretty new to Columbus) and I wanted to bring a bit of the vibe I’m used to — something a little different — to the Columbus art scene. This show felt like just the thing.

CRC: In your experience, why is the public domain important to artists and art in general?

Peters: The public domain is important to artists because it connects us to artists from the past and our shared drive to create; there’s something very powerful about that. It also removes the barrier of licensing fees from the equation. Depending on the nature of a project, an artist may need to access music, imagery or other creative elements from outside sources….and that can be cost prohibitive or challenging in terms of tracking down who actually owns the rights and paying to use the content. But, in the case of public domain content, though, it belongs to all of us!

CRC: You required participating artists to verify that the works they used are in the public domain; how did this process work?

Peters: We initially provided artists with links to a plethora of public domain material that they could use for their pieces. Artists in the show are providing me with links to sources that confirm that either the expired copyright of the content they’ve used was not renewed or that the work has been put into the public domain by the copyright owner.

CRC: Have you encountered any confusion or misconceptions from artists or your audience about what the public domain actually is? Has this exhibit helped you to educate people about the public domain? 

Peters: There were a couple of artists who (like many others in the general public) weren’t quite clear on the boundaries of copyright.  I think feel it’s very important for all of us as artists to know what protection our own work has as well as making sure we don’t violate anyone else’s intellectual property rights, in particular having access to something versus having permission to use it. I. So I try to shed light on copyright and also clarify where the public domain comes into play. And of course, having the support of the Copyright Resource Center was a great resource! [Editor’s Note: Thanks! It was our pleasure.] In talking to people about the show, I’ve found that lots of folks have heard the term ‘public domain,’ but they weren’t really sure what it means. That’s why I decided to include the definition on the show’s web site!

CRC: Can you share a few details about the new art that will be on display at this exhibit, and/or the public domain works that were incorporated in the art on display?

Peters: Well, I don’t want to give too much away…but I will say that Public Domain is a group show and that it features artists working in a mix of media: illustration, 3D art, painting, graphic art, video and even paper sculpture. There are very diverse aesthetics and very distinctive perspectives represented in the show, which is exactly what I’d hoped for. The artists have pulled from very different areas of the public domain for inspiration and, something else that I’m quite excited about: many of them chose to use public domain content in a different medium than the one their piece is in. I love that they’ve mixed it up. It’s all about imagination!

CRC: Thanks Celia– We look forward to the exhibit!

headshot photo of Celia C. Peters

Photo of Ms. Peters
© 2014 Celia C. Peters

Celia C. Peters is an avant-garde filmmaker creating compelling stories of authentically diverse characters. Peters is a member of New York Women in Film and Television and the Writers Guild of America. Her psychologically inspired, character-driven screenwriting has been both prize-winning and recognized in competition otherwise. She is the founder of Artistic Freedom Ltd., and her graphic art, photography and video work have shown at galleries in New York, Dallas, Detroit and London. She is completing post-production of her science fiction short film, Roxë15 and developing her sci-fi feature film project, Godspeed. See her full bio at ARTISTIC FREEDOM LTD.

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By Jessica Meindertsma, Rights Management Specialist at the Copyright Resources Center, The Ohio State University Libraries

 

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